‘STOP bombing Syria! Welfare not warfare! David Cameron shame on you! Hilary Benn shame on you!’ shouted crowds at the end of a 10,000-strong march in central London on Saturday.
The march from the BBC, Portland Place, to a rally outside Downing Street was organised by Stop the War Coalition. Messages of support were read out from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
NUT NEC member Alex Kenny told the rally the NUT NEC had decided ‘our job is to stay the hand of this government. Bombing will create more refugees and terrorists. The government have an inexhaustible appetite for war and inexhaustible – at a time of cuts in education and libraries it has money for war.
‘The narrative the government is creating is that if you’re against bombing you are a terrorist sympathiser, if you are against the government you are an extremist. This is causing fear in schools because children fear they may be called extremists. What sort of world is it when there is more criticism of Jeremy Corbyn for attending and anti-war dinner than of MPs who dine with warmongers?’
Peter Brierley from Military Families Against War, said: ‘My son died in Iraq. You can’t get peace by bombing, you only get peace through negotiation. I lost my son; in Syria they are losing whole families, they’ve lost their neighbourhood, their country. What are the refugees going to do when they go back? The government haven’t a clue, they’re making the same mistakes time and again. Cameron stop bombing Syria, the British people don’t want it.”
Syrian cleric Nadim Nazar said: ‘They still believe bombing will stop civil war. The winners are the warlords who are exporting arms. In Lebanon they failed, in Iraq they failed. My country now is on its knees – 350,000 are dead, seven million are refugees. Why can’t we learn from history? The MPs should ask who is behind ISIS, who is supporting ISIS. God has nothing to do with it. Stop the bombing stop the bullets and let’s talk.’
News Line spoke to people as the march assembled outside the BBC. Visiting from Holland, Dorothy Anson said: ‘I feel America and England are supporting conflict in the Middle East. They destabilised the area on a lie in Iraq. They said there were chemical weapons in Syria, which also was a lie. They want the oil it’s all about the oil.
‘Now they’ve the millions of refugees and ISIS. Instead of bombing they should stop and solve the problems they created in the first place. They problem with capitalism started a long time ago with slavery. They should stop exploiting these countries, make amends for all they stole and all they killed.’
Retired teacher, now an artist, Margarita Evans told News Line: ‘The bombing of Syria is an imperialist invasion of another country. It follows a series of invasions and bombing on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Now it’s Syria and I do wonder where it’s going to be next.
‘We need the overthrow of this (Tory) government. We need an end to so-called capitalist democracy, it doesn’t work, it’s not democratic. It’s only very good at making bombs and war. The unions should take action. It’s not enough for them to deal with work issues, they have to be politically active.’
David Smith, a pharmacist from Manchester, said: ‘We’re Syrian ourselves so this is close to our heart. The best thing the British government could do is not interfere. It caused a lot of problems in the past in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Syria is like Libya with all the different militias.
‘The Syrian government is standing up against the Islamist extremists. I don’t agree with all the Syrian government is doing but I don’t agree with other people who say it should be removed. Syrians should decide who runs their country, not others. We’ve been in Britain 18 years.’
David’s sister Sara Smith interjected: ‘They (the UK government) claim they don’t have money for education, pay rises or the NHS but they always have money for war.’
Milly Rawley, a student from Dartford, Kent, said: ‘You can’t kill an ideology by bombing it. The government says it’s speaking for the whole of the UK but it’s just a small group and they’re killing civilians. They haven’t learned from the past, from Iran and Iraq. No-one wants this war. Of everyone I’ve been around, there isn’t a single person who’s for it.
‘Bombing extremist groups isn’t the way to tackle them. The British say they bombed the IS oilfields in their first airstrikes, why weren’t the Americans and French doing that? There should be an election to see what the public feel about this war. David Cameron should apologise for saying Stop the War are terrorist sympathisers. The unions should take strike action to stop the war. I hate capitalism.’
Ruth Dewa from Penge, an oral historian for Bubble Theatre Company, said: ‘Iraq has taught us that continued protest, even after planes have already gone in, is very important. We have to get this government to change course.’
Noha Al-Maghafi, a student from Yemen living in Sussex, told News Line: ‘I’m here to stand in solidarity to stop war and to stop bombing innocent people. The government says they are doing the right thing by dropping bombs but they are not killing terrorists, they are killing innocent people. The government should focus on investing in education and things that could help develop the country, not dropping bombs.
‘The whole thing that this terrorism is happening is because the West started war in Iraq. These terrorists are the product of the West. My country, Yemen, is being bombed by Saudi Arabia and the British government is selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.’
Unemployed young Birmingham woman Sureha Begum said: ‘I’ve come for the march because I feel really passionately about the plight of the Syrian people. Also, I don’t agree with the reasons that Britain has gone into war. I disagree with David Cameron’s claim that he is trying to protect British citizens here.
‘He should be concentrating on humanitarian aid not military action. The West should stop supplying terrorists with weapons. This war is in the interest of the banks and this government is looking after them, not ordinary people. You look at what’s happening in Cumbria – they cut the funding for flood defences, while money is spent on war. The unions should take general strike action to bring this Tory government down.’
Take-away owner Mohammed Alom from Birmingham: ‘The West started the war in Syria for their own gains, in all the Middle East countries actually. I don’t think it’s to do with religion, it’s about the West taking over countries they wanted to years ago.
‘It’s about control of resources, they’re after the oil. ‘The trade unions should take action, protests aren’t enough, and the media cover up for the government. The unions need to strike against the war. They need to bring the Tory government down, we need another kind of government.
‘Most people in this country are not for bombing Syria.’
London designer Alexis Aggett said: ‘I’m here because we haven’t learnt lessons from the past.
‘It does no good to bomb a population that is essentially held captive. We bomb more civilians than we protect. We can’t sow violence and reap peace.’
London student Jess Whitehouse from Stoke-on-Trent, said: ‘It’s completely ridiculous that we can’t have refugees but we can bomb civilians in Syria. The government haven’t looked at alternatives first. They should be looking at who are funding IS and who they are getting their weapons from.
‘The air strikes are also so expensive and we could do so much good with that money. And you can’t bomb your way to peace. I agree with the unions taking strike action to stop the war and bring the Tories down. I’d like to see a workers’ government.’
Marielka Wilkins, an account manager from Kew, said: ‘I’m against UK intervention in Syria.
‘Bombing is not going to make things better. I’m sure that innocent civilians are going to die and I also feel that the general public is not behind this war. We should have learned from the Iraq war, and we obviously haven’t.
‘ISIS do need to be dealt with but bombing Syria is not the solution. The public are now even more afraid of a terrorist attack in London. And I don’t believe bombing Syria is going to make our country safer. The trade unions should take action, definitely. There should be a general strike. For a democratic country, people have very little say.’